Thursday, November 30, 2006

Friday, December 1 - HOPE

Laurie Rudel

Blessed are those who hope in God,
they shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out roots by the stream . . .
In the year of the drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit.
Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NSRV)

There is something about God, Jeremiah tells us, that creates in us a sense of security and groundedness. In these times we shall be like trees. We shall be like trees planted by water. We shall be like trees planted by water whose roots move naturally toward the stream. This organic image invites us into deep trust.

At a particularly difficult time in my life I saw that I pictured myself as a little bush hunkered down and fearful of the gusts of wind coming my way. The invitation appeared to see myself as a redwood tree. I made up a little song about being "a tall redwood tree with great deep roots." In the song I pictured my branches reaching toward heaven and my roots going deep into the earth. I sang this song mostly when I was alone in the car and it gave me great comfort. Over time I became less anxious about my situation and I grew in strength.

Drought times will come in our lives. Now is the time to saturate our hearts and minds in hope, to drink deeply so that we might continue to bear fruit.

• Imagine yourself as a tree.
• Take a look at your roots and examine the fruit of your tree.
• Notice the water nearby.
• Drink deeply, calm your heart.

We must accept finite disappointment, but we most never lose infinite hope.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Thursday, November 30 - HOPE

Laurie Rudel

But if we hope for what we do not see,we wait for it with patience.
Romans 8:25 (NSRV)

When granddaughter Maggie was about three years old she began to learn that she did not automatically get everything she wanted. There was a distinction between wants (more transitory) and needs (essential to life).

As she began to figure this out she also began to make plain her desires. Her wants, perhaps a cookie before a meal, soon became: "But Nana, I n-e-e-e-e-e-e-d it!!" This was said with such fervor and pleading that you were certain she would die without it.

To hope for what we do not see, to wait with patience, is learned through hard experience. There are times when there is nothing more we can do than to wait. As my Grandma Rudel would say when pestered by my sister and I about when something would happen, or what the future would be like: "Time will tell, girls. Time will tell." It is only now that I appreciate the wisdom of her response.

If we can move past surface reality and really sink down into this kind of waiting, knowing that here, now, in this very moment we have nothing to fear, we will find great strength.

• Settle yourself for a moment and breathe quietly.
• Notice the ebb and flow of your breath.
• Make a little breath prayer for today, like: Wait in patient hope.
• Repeat it often throughout the day as you stand in line, sit with a red light . . .

There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something tomorrow. - Orison Swett Marden

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Wednesday, November 29 - HOPE

Laurie Rudel

Uphold me according to your promise,that I may live,and let me not be put to shame in my hope. Psalm 119:116 (NSRV)

At various times in our lives hope may be hard to come by: finances get out of hand and bills must be paid; our health suddenly becomes fragile; a chronic long-standing condition suddenly becomes acute and we loose our balance; an important relationship falters; death haunts the hallway; we watch loved ones make tragic choices.

Around the world we also watch as nations and tribes take up arms against one another. The reasons for the original conflict seem lost or petty. Perhaps we even feel shame for the actions of our own country.

Tossed about in this way it is easy to become cynical. It is easy to give up hope. It is easy to shut out everything that makes us uncomfortable.

The psalmist for today also lived in desperate times and prayed for God’s promise to be made real here and now. The psalmist prayed that hope—as tender as new grass—would be held secure in the heart of God. What tender hope seeks to arise in you this day? How will you safe-guard that hope?

• Pray for a moment about shame and hope.
• Notice which one has more power for you.
• See if you can deepen and protect the roots of hope within you.

Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. - Vaclav Havel

Monday, November 27, 2006

Tuesday, November 28 - HOPE

Joan Dennehy

I pray that God may give you a spirit of wisdom and that with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which God has called you... Ephesians 1:17-18 (NRSV)

E. B. White said "I get up every morning determined to change the world and to have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning the day difficult." Amen, brother. Perhaps the Christian journey is about learning to have a good time changing the world.

The hope of Jesus was based on his understanding of the character of God. Who’s to say God isn’t a barrel of laughs? Poet, Anne Sexton, gave me an image of God I won’t forget: "On with it" God says as we squat on the rocks by the sea and play—can it be true—a game of poker. God calls me. I win because I hold a royal straight flush. God wins because God holds five aces. A wild card had been announced but I had not heard it, being in such a state of awe when God took out the cards and dealt. As God plunks down five aces and I sit grinning at my royal flush, God starts to laugh, the laughter rolling like a hoop out of God’s mouth and into mine.

God of Many Deliverances, your miraculous, untamed grace feels so undeserved. Help me take myself lightly when I think changing the world is all up to me. Teach me with divine hilarity to be determined in a way that adds twinkle to all I touch.

In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer. - Albert Camus
Monday, November 27 - HOPE

Joan Dennehy

My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and come to their end without hope.
Job 7:6 (NRSV)

This is where we begin. Who has not quickened at the passing of the days? Who has not felt like we are all somebody’s workers in a big factory grasping for breaks? Reaching for paychecks and prizes. Dragged through tossings and turnings. Mouths making a little wind, eyes straining harder.

There was a journalist assigned to the Jerusalem bureau of his newspaper whose apartment overlooked the Wailing Wall. Whenever he looked at it he saw the same old man praying vigorously. So he went down to the wall, introduced himself, and said, "You come every day to the wall. What are your praying for?" The old man replied, "In the morning I pray for world peace, then I pray for the kinship of all humans. I go home, have a glass of tea, and I come back to the wall to pray for the eradication of illness and disease from the earth."

"How long have you been coming here to pray for these things?"

"Twenty, twenty-five years."

"How does it feel to come and pray every day for these things?"

"It feels like I’m talking to a wall."

With your help, O God, our Refuge and our Strength, we can pray without ceasing, we can lift our hearts to you, open our lives to you, feel the pain of others, puzzle over the silence—the place in which all our days seem to vanish. We do pray...everywhere.

Hope is the last thing ever lost. - Italian proverb

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Welcome to Advent!

Dear Friends,

The days grow darker and the liturgical year begins again in this season of Advent, a time that both of us love dearly for its invitation to sit quietly, to open the heart, mind, and will to the companionship of God who wants to be born anew into our lives of mud and hours, body and dream.

In a forward to The Book of Awakening, by Mark Nepo, Wayne Muller says,

Our life is made of days. It is only in the days of our lives that we find peace, joy and healing.

To that we would add those other Advent words: hope and love. These simple words are deep wells. We do not tire of drawing their water and drinking deep to quench our thirst.

We have been sisters-in-ministry for many years now, drawing strength and inspiration from one another. We have often talked of the ways in which we have seen the face of Christ in you and the ways in which you have made moments of a day seem like sacrament. We are honored to pastor small churches and grateful for the leadership you have shared with us over the years. Our ‘smallness’ feels full indeed.

We decided to spend a retreat day together to pray and plan for this book of days which we have written with love for you, for the church universal, for all the ways in which people gather themselves together on this earth to acknowledge their higher selves, to become lovers of God, and to walk the narrow path that not everyone wants to go.

May we be more honest about the darkness, more perceptive of the light,

Joan Dennehy, Pastor - Findlay Street Christian Church
Laurie Rudel, Pastor - Queen Anne Christian Church